Enjoy a Cultural Day Trip to Naples with This Detailed Itinerary
There are so many little towns in southern Italy situated along the Bay of Naples. From the ruined city of Pompeii and Herculaneum to quaint towns like Sorrento, it can be a hard choice for where to spend your time if you only have a day in Naples.
Naples is at the center of all these incredible destinations, which can mean that is exactly where you should start if you only have time for a day in Naples: Naples itself! And save the surrounding areas for another day or trip.
Naples has a bustling city center that is under the shadow of the still-active volcano, Mount Vesuvius. Packed with history, elegant architecture, and classic Italian food it is a city that should not be missed even if you’re short on time in the area.
This itinerary will help you make the most of your day in Naples, with time spent exploring the main sites as well as taking time to relax and and enjoy the incredible food Naples has to offer.
1 Day in Naples Itinerary
Morning in Naples
Gran Caffè Gambrinus
Start your day at the Gran Caffè Gambrinus. It is situated between the main squares, the Piazza del Plebiscito and the Piazza Trieste e Trento.
The cafes tall ceilings are painted gold and white with chandeliers giving the cafe a cozy glow. Statues watch over the tables as customers enjoy some famous Neapolitan coffee and an assortment of pastries.
You may find yourself standing for some time trying to pick from the cakes on offer as you’ll find rows and rows of delicate pastries with clumps of cream and fruit on top, dusted with icing and glazed buns streaked with chocolate.
Enjoy your breakfast outside on the cobbled square, with grand buildings on all sides of you in shades of salmon pink, yellow, and orange with ornately decorated window frames, balconies, and statues overhanging doorways. The fountain nearby trickling water from the water lily on top also adds to the pleasant ambiance. Simply people watch as the city goes about its business and the organized chaos that is Italians driving speeds by.
Piazza del Plebiscito
When you’ve had your fill of pastries, walk around the Piazza del Plebiscito just facing the cafe.
This large, paved square is surrounded by majestic buildings on all sides, including the Naples Royal Palace and the Church of San Francesco di Paola. Standing in the square feels like you’ve been transported to another era.
The church is beautifully symmetrical with its rows of pillars holding up a massive dome, a cross glinting on top. Bronze lions appear to lounge outside as people cross the square, gazing at the magnificence of the architecture.
Down a side street beside these imposing buildings is the Bourbon Tunnel, an ancient tunnel connecting the palace to the military barracks. It was used as a bomb shelter during World War II.
Inside the Bourbon Tunnel is like a graveyard for vehicles with rows of motorbikes and rusted cars. Lights cast an eerie glow on the bright blue pool set in the ground. The claustrophobic interior is painted white and sparsely decorated with trinkets from the past.
Shopping Along Via Toledo
Back outside, the piazza leads to Via Toledo. This is a famous shopping area, reportedly the best in Naples. It is also the most ancient shopping street in Naples and is 1.2 kilometers long.
Through the throngs of people, glance in the windows of local shops as well as big brands, or go inside them to do some retail therapy.
One Day in Naples: Lunch and Afternoon Sightseeing
Enjoy the afternoon walking along the promenade at Lungomare Caracciolo. Walk in the direction of Mount Vesuvius, which will be looming in the distance. Watch as speedboats, yachts, and little blue and white row boats bob on the glistening waters beside you.
Have a Neapolitan Lunch
You can stop along your way down the Lungomare Caracciolo for a sit-down meal in one of the restaurants or cafes that line the seafront for a delicious lunch.
Lunch Tip: Try to avoid tourist hot spots which tend to be near the famous landmarks. If the menu has pictures on it or if the menu is in English, then it is likely a tourist establishment. If you sit down to eat and the waiter or waitress leaves bread or water on your table, be aware you will probably be charged for it.
However, in my opinion, the best food is street food. Grab a slice of famous Neapolitan pizza, simple yet full of flavor no matter where you get it from. Sit by the bay, with the sound of the water and the sun warming your skin. Then get some gelato, stacked high behind the glass displays and available in just about any flavor you can think of.
Castel dell ’Ovo
At the far side of the bay is Castel Dell ’Ovo (Castle of the Egg). It may be too long a walk, especially under the scorching sun but there are several transportation options to choose from. Hop on the metro or subway, sightseeing buses, city buses, or taxis. If you get a taxi be sure to ask for the rate beforehand to prevent you from being overcharged.
However you decide to reach Castel Dell ‘Ovo, you won’t be able to miss it. Situated on a rock in the middle of the sea, it is an imposing structure that prominently stands out in the landscape.
This 12th century castle was built by the Normans and is the city’s oldest castle. The intimidating fortress has a cubic design, like blocks stacked on top of one another, fitting perfectly together.
There is free entry into this popular landmark, which is a great thing to take advantage of during your day in Naples.
Once you arrive, enter the castle grounds and amble along the narrow streets and through the archways inside and stand behind the canons pointed out to sea. At the top, admire the panoramic view of Naples with its buildings rising up from the hills and the domes of churches glinting white.
1 Day in Naples: the Evening Hours and Dinner
Beneath the walls of the castle is the Borgo Marinari. Restaurants and bars line their chairs and tables along the paved squares.
The little marina is a hive of activity with people loading boats and scooters whizzing past.
Sit at one of the cafes and look out to the bright yellow and green row boats rocking on the crystalline waters. Enjoy a cocktail as you watch the sun set, painting the sky in hues of oranges and pinks as the last of the sun’s rays peak out from behind Mount Vesuvius.
As darkness falls, the castle lights up, making this structure seem even bigger.
Relaxing in Borgo Marinari is a lovely way to end your day in Naples.
Enjoy Your Day Trip to Naples
Naples has so much to offer and a day will only skim the surface.
However, there is time to both see the sights and relax. Try not to rush from one sight to the next but take your time. Strolling through the paved streets and soaking in the atmosphere of this historic town is a day well spent.
If you find yourself with more time in Naples, then my guide on things to do around the Bay of Naples will help.
About the Author: Timi Szoke is a London-based writer who enjoys traveling the world with her Italian husband and young son. She shares her travel adventures with tips on how you can travel like a local on her blog, thelandloper.com. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
Found this article helpful? Pin to read again later!